Friday, February 27, 2009


In the last 5 weeks, I've written letters asking some rather uncomfortable questions about graffiti of our local MP, Angela D'Amore, and the Attorney General, John Hatzistergos.  At least the Attorney General's office has had the decency to acknowledge my letter (even though it took two weeks just for them to do that, which is an extraordinarily slow turnaround for things like this).  Angela D'Amore's office has done nothing after 5 weeks, which is verging on the rude.

Lo and behold, this story appeared in our local paper this week:

Drummoyne MP Angela D’Amore MP and Attorney General John Hatzistergos launched new laws at Abbotsford Thrifty Link that makes it an offence to carry a marker pen of etching implements with intent to deface property.

“It will be an offence to carry marker pens or etching implements for the purpose of committing graffiti vandalism,” Mr Hatzistergos said.

Angela D’Amore MP said: “The offence is part of a package of tough new laws to tackle the proliferation of unsightly graffiti tags, which deface suburbs and towns across NSW.”

“The community has had enough of having to repair damage left behind by this senseless crime,” said Mr Hatzistergos. 


Or damage control?  

If I was a cynical man, I'd say that this was a PR attempt to "get on the front foot" with the media.  

The article goes on on with:

Mr Hatzistergos said the maximum penalties for graffiti offences had been standardised under the new legislation as follows:

Fines of $2,200 or 6 months’ jail for damaging or defacing premises or property
Fines of $1,100 or 3 months’ jail for possessing any instrument, including etching equipment or marker pens, intended for use in defacing or damaging premises or property;

Enabling courts to continue to impose community service work on graffiti vandals
“Offenders who inflict serious damage on property will still be able to be charged with malicious damage under the Crimes Act, which carries a maximum jail term of five years,” he said. 

There was a lot of fuss recently when Cheyane Back was jailed for 3 months after vandalising private property in Hyde Park.  I believe that a lot of fuss was made because this was an astoundingly rare event, and the general public was shocked that a vandal had finally been sent to jail.

I don't see the point in imposing harsher penalties for graffiti - simply because the existing penalties are applied so rarely.  Research tells us that most vandals are aged under 18 - how many magistrates are going to send 14 year old kids to jail for 3 months for tagging?  None are doing it today, and I suggest that even with the harsher penalties, none will do it in future.  Note that although harsher penalties were announced, no announcement was made about providing additional prison places - because there is clearly no expectation that they will be required.

This is a Claytons announcement, and a Claytons policy, and I see it having next to no impact on graffiti.  

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